Preparing for a Termination Meeting

Getting your Ducks in a Row

Written by Deanna Hunter


Most managers take a lot of time and expend a lot of energy in ensuring that they have done their due diligence when deciding to terminate a poor performing employee.  Important stuff for sure.   Paying some attention to the actual termination meeting itself is also important but often overlooked.

The goal should be to get through the meeting without anyone feeling tortured or beat up, and with all parties leaving with their dignity intact.  Here are a few things to consider when planning for and conducting a termination meeting:

Consider timing.  First thing in the morning as soon as the employee comes in is often the best as they won’t have gotten into their work for the day and many of their other teammates may not be in yet.  Typically you wouldn’t let someone go on a Friday – the thinking is that, if they would like to obtain legal counsel, they will be unable to do so over the weekend as lawyers offices will be closed.  You want to ensure they have every chance of reviewing the package and then seeking advice right after the termination meeting.

Don’t go in alone.  This is not about ganging up on the poor departing employee.  It’s more about having a ‘wing man’ in case things go bad and you need some assistance.  If you have lost control of the meeting, a second voice of reason can help to get things back on track.

Have all the documents ready to go.  Be familiar with the various documents and know what they say, but don’t read or go through them in detail in the meeting.  Cover off what they entail and then give them to the employee to take home and review.

Don’t let them sign anything in the meeting. The employee will likely be upset and not thinking straight.  Even if they are mad and want to sign off on any documents to get it over with, ask them to take it home and review it one more time before they sign.  They (and perhaps their spouse) will then have a chance to review it with a clear head and you won’t be put in a position of being accused of having them sign something under duress.

Retrieving cell phones.  It may be the case that the employee uses their work cell phone for housing personal contact information (babysitter, children’s school, doctors, spouse’s work, etc.).  Take that into account if you are asking them to hand over the phone immediately.  They may need some contact information right away to manage the situation.

How will they get home?  Worst case scenario is that the employee is extremely upset and distraught and might not be fit to drive home.  Make sure you are aware of how they typically get home – Public transit?  Car pool?  Cycle?  Drive?  Have a taxi chit ready for them so that neither of you have to worry about their safety.

Plan the physical exit.  You don’t have to “walk the employee out” as many people think.  You may only want to do that if the meeting has been volatile or if you believe having them go back to their desk to gather their personal items may put other employees or company property at risk.

Communicating the departure.  Don’t forget to put a simple plan together to announce the departure.  It is no one else’s business why the employee was let go, so colleagues just need to be advised that the employee is no longer with the company and perhaps provided any information they require in order to do their jobs effectively in the immediate future.

Terminating an employee is difficult for everyone involved.  If you are lucky, you don’t need to do it very often.  But when you do, make sure you have your ducks in a row!

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